Europe blames its retailers for safety lax in RMG units
Members of the European Parliament yesterday blamed their retailers for a lack of concern over poor safety standards at Bangladeshi factories that lead to incidents like the recent fire at Tazreen Fashions.
They said the responsibility for the deaths lies both with the owners of these "death trap factories" and the retailers who buy clothes from these units for their European customers.
Some parliamentarians on Wednesday also discussed what steps the EU should take following the tragic fire at Tazreen that killed 112 workers in November.
The plenary session of the European parliamentarians began on January 14 and ended yesterday.
Paul Murphy, a lawmaker from the left-leaning parliamentarian group -- GUE/NGL, blamed the failure of the big businesses on their own "moral but useless" code of conduct.
"I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of the 112 workers who needlessly lost their lives in the fire and to the families of all the estimated 700 other garment workers who have lost their lives in industrial fires in Bangladesh since 2006."
Bangladesh is the world's second largest clothing exporter, he said, adding that the country's clothing trade was worth $19 billion in 2011 alone, with its factories producing for major brands like Tommy Hilfiger, GAP, Calvin Klein, H&M and Walmart.
â€œYet 40 percent of the population live under the poverty line of $1.25 a day," Murphy said.
The workers, 85 percent of whom are women, have a minimum wage of $37 a month and are often forcibly prevented from forming trade unions, he said at the session.
Murphy also criticised manual sandblasting in jeans making factories that put workers at health risks such as silicosis and lung cancer.
The Bangladeshi government should ban all forms of manual sandblasting and implement a public programme to provide social and medical assistance for workers affected by silicosis, he added.
"The EU must implement an import ban on sandblasted jeans if it is serious about protecting the health of workers in the most exploitative industries."
A draft motion for a resolution that calls on the Bangladeshi government to put in place measures that ensure full compliance with health and safety legislation was voted on in the plenary session.